DA reiterates commitment to increasing country’s rice production

DA reiterates commitment to increasing country’s rice production
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THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has reiterated its commitment to increasing the level of rice production in the country with lower expenditures to alleviate the burden of global inflation in other food and non-food products, particularly rice.

In a press conference on Saturday, April 6, 2024, DA Assistant Secretary Arnel De Mesa said the government will use greater mechanization and efficient post-harvest processes to boost agricultural activity in the country.

“So ngayon, ang tutok pa rin namin ngayon ay sa palayan na mapataas ang lebel ng produksiyon at mapababa iyong cost to produce, again sa pamamagitan ng mechanization at mapababa rin iyong post-harvest losses. Kaya iyon ang tinututukan din ni (DA) Secretary (Francisco) Tiu Laurel,” he said.

(So now, our focus is still on rice fields to increase production levels and lower the cost to produce, again through mechanization, and also to reduce post-harvest losses. That's what Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel of the Department of Agriculture is also focusing on.)

Due to the variety of rice being planted and harvested, De Mesa said there are about 15 to 20 percent post-harvest losses, especially during the drying and milling process.

“Iyong halimbawa, sa milling natin sa kiskisan, malaki na sa atin iyong 65 percent na milling recovery pero marami pa rin sa kiskisan, nasa 50 to 55 percent ang milling recovery,” De Mesa said.

(For example, in our milling, in the grinding process, we already have a significant 65 percent milling recovery rate, but still, in some cases, the milling recovery is around 50 to 55 percent.)

“Ang isang dahilan nito, maraming variety ng bigas na mayroon ngayon na natatanim at mayroong masyadong mahaba, mayroong bilugan, masyadong maliit. So iyong kiskisan kasi ano ‘yan, e, ‘pag rubber hull, ‘pag hindi maganda iyong clearance…talagang maraming durog o kaya marami iyong palay pa o ipa na natitira so kailangan ikiskis uli, so maraming nasasayang,” he added.

(One reason for this is the variety of rice being cultivated nowadays, some are too long, some are round, some are too small. So in the milling process, when it's a rubber hull, if the clearance isn't good... there are many broken grains or there's still a lot of rice husk left, so it needs to be ground again, resulting in a lot of waste.)

The DA is planning to reduce the number of varieties from the existing more than 18 to just two or three for each region to ensure an efficient milling system with higher milling recovery.

De Mesa said they are also eyeing the construction of deep piers intended for large ships to lessen the logistics cost of farm inputs, such as fertilizers, that in the end could lower the cost of producing rice in the country.

He said the agency aims to make ice prices in the country at par with its Southeast Asian neighbors, noting that Vietnam is producing P6 per kilo of rice, while the Philippines produces a kilo of rice at P12 to P14.

De Mesa noted that labor is the major cost component in producing rice, and labor cost is at a premium in the Philippines.

He said it was the reason for the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law, which allocates P10 billion annually under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), with half of it dedicated to farm mechanization aimed at lowering the labor cost component in rice production.

“Mahal din iyong input sa atin dahil iyong logistics, iyong binabanggit palagi ni Secretary Tiu Laurel iyong fertilizer na dadalhin ng Mindoro manggagaling pa iyon ng Bataan, so bago makarating iyong fertilizer from Bataan to Mindoro na nakailang lipat iyong tracking ang laki ng gastos,” De Mesa said.

(The inputs are also costly for us because of logistics, as Secretary Tiu Laurel often mentions the fertilizer that will be transported from Bataan to Mindoro. So, before the fertilizer reaches Mindoro, having undergone several transfers, the expenses become significant.)

“So, kung mayroon tayong deep na pier – iyong malalim na pier, ang tawag nila nga doon ay panamax ba – malakihan, puwedeng doon na dalhin directly iyong barko, magdaong mas malaki iyong matitipid – bababa about P15 to P20 immediately iyong presyo ng inputs,” he added.

(So, if we have a deep pier - the deep pier they call it "panamax" - large enough, ships can directly dock there, allowing for larger vessels to dock, resulting in savings of about P15 to P20 immediately on input prices.)

De Mesa said the DA is also focusing on enhancing the distribution system, as well as post-harvest facilities to make the country’s agriculture sector more competitive.

He said the agency targets to attain much higher rice productivity, noting that currently, the national average is only at 4.1 metric tons per hectare.

Nueva Ecija, the country’s rice granary, produces six to eight metric tons per hectare while many areas in the country are producing three to four metric tons per hectare because of limited use of high-yielding varieties, irrigation, and fertilizer due to high input cost.

In March 2024, the country’s rice inflation stood at 24.4 percent, the highest in over the past 15 years.

Albay Second District Representative Joey Salceda, who is also an economist, reiterated that managing the prices of rice is the key to calming down the inflation or the increase of prices of goods and services at a given time.

He said that 57 percent of the March 2024 inflation came from higher food prices.

The country’s headline inflation in March 2024 slightly accelerated to 3.7 percent, from 3.4 percent during the month prior. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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